Hardin-Simmons University issued a campus-wide lockdown alert last night citing a potential active shooter situation. The shooter was not found, and the campus received an all-clear alert after about 45 minutes.
HSU spokesperson Tim Wagner said the Abilene Police Department had reports of an armed man walking down Grape Street near the HSU campus late yesterday evening. Police also had reports of shots fired near Beech and Orange Streets. One caller reported the shooter had fired 12 rounds into the air around 10:21 p.m., according to the Abilene police.
“Just to be very cautious, we issued a text alert and notified our students that there was possibly a shooter near campus,” Wagner said.
The HSU alert system is also used for severe weather and any other dangerous situations. Students were told to stay indoors until the situation was safe. Wagner said police searched for the shooter but did not find anyone, then students were alerted that it was safe about 45 minutes after the initial text. Another message was sent to students this morning to give more details about the situation. Wagner said he heard from several parents of students who appreciated the alerts and other parents who wanted to sign up for the alerts.
The APD said today that the investigation was still open.
The ACU Police Department also has a text system called ACU ALERT, which students can sign up for online. ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison said in the event of a life-threatening situation, ACUPD would follow similar procedures as HSU did in this situation – sending out an initial safety alert and then following up with more information or an “ALL CLEAR” message.
“Getting the initial message out is critically important, but just as important is sending out follow-up alerts with more information, because now that everyone is alerted, you need to keep them updated with things as they evolve” Ellison said. “The decision as to whether or not we should send out an alert is not made lightly, but unfortunately, has to be made quickly with the facts and information we have at the time. Hindsight is always 20-20, so a chief has to ask themselves, would I rather explain why I sent it out, or why I failed to send it out?”
Ellison also said choosing the best wording to use in an emergency alerts is critical.
“We have to get the word out quickly and emphatically, without exaggerating anything and causing undue panic,” Ellison said. “It’s not as simple as it may seem.”
ACUPD offers active shooter training sessions to departments or classes, and any group can request the presentation. Since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Ellison said more groups have scheduled the training.
“When there’s a national incident, that’s when we see increased interest and requests,” Ellison said.
He said the ACU ALERT system will also be tested soon.